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If you’re LGBTQ in America, the time to broaden your skill set and prioritize career flexibility is now

Writer and entrepreneur Nick Wolny points out that LGBTQ workplace and discrimination protections are at risk, and the impacts are both psychological and financial.

If you’re LGBTQ in America, the time to broaden your skill set and prioritize career flexibility is now
[Photo: FG Trade/Getty Images]

LGBTQ workplace and discrimination protections are at risk, and the impacts are both psychological and financial. The overturning of Roe v. Wade has many pundits projecting that the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision, which federally protects gay marriage, may fall next. It’s important to emphasize that this ruling gives LGBTQ people access to financial incentives such as marital tax deductions and estate planning benefits. (Also: damn good weddings, obviously. The business of planning LGBTQ weddings has pumped $3.8 billion into local and state economies since becoming nationally legal in 2015). At the rate we’re going, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see other workplace and discrimination protections quietly rolled back in the coming years.

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Add to this both a Great Resignation and sudden increased cost of living as a result of inflation, and you have more people then ever before—both LGBTQ and not—turning to entrepreneurship to keep their options open. An astonishing 93% of Americans have what they would call a side hustle, and 44% of respondents also said they need their side hustle to make ends meet, according to one new survey of 1,000 respondents conducted by Insuranks, an online insurance marketplace.

As a grizzled consultant who’s been self-employed for six years—and used freelancing to pull myself out of one hell of a financial hole—my advice for LGBTQ people (and anyone else nervous about the direction this country is headed) is to learn the foundational principles of self-employment now. When you know the nuts and bolts of freelancing or consulting, you can go fishing whenever you want to bring in more monthly income, and there’s a special personal power that emerges when you know you’ll be fine if you suddenly have to fend for yourself.

LGBTQ people should prioritize entrepreneurship now. To escape a state or living situation that has rising anti-LGBTQ sentiment, you’ll probably need money, which means you need to learn both how to make it (entrepreneurship) and how to manage it (personal finance). As a wise woman once said: “Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.” (Beyoncé said that, just so we’re clear.)

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Here are some of the nuances on LGBTQ personal finance and entrepreneurship that are important to keep in mind.

LGBTQ people are more likely to grapple with financial security

One reason LGBTQ people are more likely to lean into entrepreneurship in the first place is that, statistically, we’re not as savvy on the basics of personal finance.

A survey of 2,005 LGBTQ Americans conducted by Debt Free Guys in partnership with The Motley Fool found only 16% of LGBTQ adults have a will (compared to 33% of the general public). The data also found that over half of the respondents had less than $10,000 in liquid savings. Additionally, LGBTQ people have experienced higher rates of unemployment and food insecurity during the pandemic, according to last year’s Household Pulse Survey from the United States Census Bureau.

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Personal finance education is a solution here, but everyone knows money tips are only interesting if you actually have cash in your pocket to begin with. The basics of entrepreneurship—sales psychology, building your network, and delivering undeniable value with your offers—are foundational skills that take time to practice and master. The silver lining of side hustle culture is that it’s giving millions of professionals a taste of what it really takes to go solo and become your own boss. This life ain’t easy, but when you know how to attract attention and money, you’re in the driver’s seat of your career. Career autonomy is important, but it does require a core skill set.

For LGBTQ people, this is about way more than fancy titles. We want career autonomy so that we can have agency to be who we want, where we want, without fear of prosecution or suppression. (And if a client’s being a homophobe, you just fire them. It’s awesome!) When you’re LGBTQ, you may not be able to be yourself 100% of the time in certain living situations. You may not be able to be yourself at all. Aspiring to a lifestyle in which you can be both financially secure and live your most authentic life is the best strategic path forward given our current political landscape.

LGBTQ people should learn entrepreneurship now

The word entrepreneurship is such a mood these days. Let’s get specific. If you’re curious about having a portfolio career, here’s what I suggest you prioritize first to get a running start.

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Focus on income generation. Controversial opinion: I don’t think saving and investing should be your top priority right now if you’re going to do this entrepreneurship dance. You need to start raking in some coin outside of your current paycheck, and there’s going to be a learning curve there that will inevitably burn down your mental attention. Get messy! Rev your top-line income up first, then optimize how you save and spend that money later.

Embrace the gig economy. There are many directions you can go with entrepreneurship. Offerings that leverage your existing knowledge–such as consulting, coaching, or freelancing as a side hustle–are best for beginners. Yes, I know that means trading hours for dollars, but you need to get your feet wet somehow, and the upfront overhead needed to start freelancing is low; a good pitch and a PayPal account are all you need to make your first sale.

Cultivate bionic focus. Many aspiring entrepreneurs never start because their shiny object syndrome gets the better of them. Focus is a muscle that can be strengthened, and you need strong focus and drive to make freelancing or a side hustle fly. Figure out what keeps your fire burning bright, then invest time, money, and/or attention into those sources of energy to keep yourself moving forward.

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Holidays like Pride month paint a rainbow-washed picture of LGBTQ life. Reality is very different, and the years ahead feel uncertain. Learn how to funnel income into your corner now and you’ll be better positioned to confront the future head-on when challenges arise.


Nick Wolny is a writer, entrepreneur, and senior editor at NextAdvisor, in partnership with TIME, where he oversees coverage related to financial independence. He currently resides in Los Angeles.


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